Ashes 2013/14: How Did Australia's Cricket Team Transform in 3 Months?

Tim Collins@@TimDCollinsFeatured ColumnistDecember 6, 2013

Ashes 2013/14: How Did Australia's Cricket Team Transform in 3 Months?

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    When Australia arrived in England ahead of the 2013 Ashes series, the once-indomitable cricketing nation appeared to be at its lowest point in history.

    Unrest in the dressing room was rife, off-field indiscretions were regular, while the team's performance was lurching towards a state of crisis.

    Yet, just a handful of months later, Australia now find themselves in a position of undreamed-of strength against their most fierce rival.

    A 381-run mauling of England in Brisbane signified the enormous momentum shift that has occurred between these teams, reinforced by the home side's plundering of 570 over the first two days of the second Test in Adelaide.

    So just how has Australia turned around its fortunes so quickly? What has led the rejuvenation of this previously disheveled outfit?

    Here's a look at the factors behind the incredibly sudden turnaround.

Selecting Gritty and Combative Characters

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    Australian cricket teams have long been characterised by the presence of aggressive and combative individuals who relish the opportunity to lock horns with an opponent.

    Yet, for much of the previous 12 months, Australia has been without such players, instead fielding teams of a far more mild nature.

    Perhaps Australia's collection of recently disposed batsmen best typifies that, with Ed Cowan, Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja all finding themselves on the nation's Ashes scrapheap. While all three are highly regarded technicians, none embody the ferocity that has been the hallmark of successful Australian teams.

    Now, in their place, are the likes of men such as David Warner and Chris Rogers; contrasting figures at the crease, yet remarkably similar in terms of gritty determination.

    Consequently, the Australian side has an aggressive edge to it again, which has been on show during the early stages of the current Ashes series.

Settling on a Batting Line-Up

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    After months and months of reshuffling, Australia has settled on a batting line-up that has spread a sense of stability through the team.

    With the nation's selection bingo appearing to have ceased, Australia look like a far more settled bunch with the bat in hand.

    Chris Rogers and David Warner have formed a strong partnership at the top; their vastly differing methods providing a desirable blend in the opening combination.

    At No. 3, Shane Watson looks more comfortable than he did when both opening and coming in at No. 6. Behind him, the captain Michael Clarke is arguably the world's finest player; the man on which every Australian innings is founded upon.

    Steven Smith and George Bailey aren't quite as assured of their long-term place in the side, but both are batting in the positions that best suit their skills.

    With the top six looking its strongest since the departures of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey, the lower order has been relieved of the pressure it found itself under for much of the Ashes series in England.

Sticking by a Spinner

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    Nathan Lyon now looks certain for an extended run in the Australian Test side, having been previously treated rather harshly by the team's selectors.

    Both Xavier Doherty and Ashton Agar have been brushed aside, leaving Lyon as Australia's obvious first-choice spinner.

    The wiry off-spinner showed promising glimpses towards the back end of the previous Ashes campaign in England, forcing selectors to stick with him for the unusually sudden re-match Down Under.

    Now, with the backing of team management, Lyon appears to be relishing his role, completing an impressive performance on a bouncy wicket in Brisbane before extracting some vicious turn in the final stages of day two in Adelaide.

    Like the team's batting line-up, Australia's bowling unit looks more settled and threatening now that a spinner has locked down his position. 

Transformation of the Enigma

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    The undisputed laughing stock of the last Ashes encounter to take place on Australian soil, Mitchell Johnson appears to have completed an astonishing transformation.

    Gone are his timid personality and lack of self-belief, replaced by an approach of bubbling aggression and hostility.

    Johnson's savage assault on England in Brisbane was one of the most memorable Test performances in memory as he turned the 'Gabba into his own roaring Colosseum by torturing a parade of English batsmen seemingly paralysed with trepidation.

    At his best, only Dale Steyn can rival Johnson, which gives Australia the most decisive edge in this Ashes series with England, particularly given the current impotence of the visitors' attack.

    With the left-armer in full flight, Australia are a force to be reckoned with.

Heavily Targeting England's Weaknesses

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    Part of Australia's revival is also due to the team's meticulous targeting of England's weaknesses.

    Instead of employing an approach based on containment and attrition, Michael Clarke's side have identified the weak spots in the current England team and have attacked them with menace.

    Yet Johnson's short-pitched barrage on England's batsman in Brisbane was just one example.

    Understanding that England's attack revolves around Graeme Swann's abilities, Australia have successfully nullified the off-spinner's threat by relentlessly attacking.

    With Swann ineffectual so far in this series, England's seamers haven't been able to close in on batsmen that have been pinned down.

    Consequently, Australia have been able to exploit both batting and bowling weaknesses in the touring England outfit.

Appointing Darren Lehmann as Coach

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    Darren Lehmann's appointment as head coach is quite possibility the most significant move made by Cricket Australia in the last five years.

    Lehmann, who has long been among the most respected figures in Australian cricket, has galvanised a previously divided dressing room, instilling an aggressive and positive mindset within his new players.

    The new-found harmony within the Australian team is clearly evident in this series, with Lehmann's men appearing more comfortable in their own skin and expressing themselves through the natural tendencies of their games. 

    Whereas Mickey Arthur was unable to unify Australia, his successor has done so handsomely, which has seen this current Australian team rediscover its identity an as outfit.

    Almost single-handedly, Lehmann has rekindled the essence of Australian success.